Blogging and social media are all about making connections, especially with those who can help promote your brand. Take a look at this detailed post to learn how you can reach out and touch an influential blogger.
Many online store owners lack a clear understanding of the concept of blogger outreach and how this important initiative can help them increase brand awareness, increase traffic, increase incoming links, increase sales and increase product and website feedback through user engagement.
There are many forms of blogger outreach, but we’re going to focus on an ecommerce blogger outreach strategy to help you build and foster long-term relationships with influential bloggers who share an affinity with your online store. This strategy consists of 4 main parts:
- Researching bloggers who reach the same audience as your store and connecting with the owners
- Earning bloggers trust in your brand by engaging them with product samples to review and/or through the exchange of content to publish on their sites
- Partnering with the bloggers to use social media to promote your brand and their blog
- Keeping track of your blogger outreach and scaling an ongoing strategy
Step 1: Researching Blogs
There are many places to begin your blogger outreach research. As you move through your research, be sure to open a spreadsheet and keep track of the URL, who owns the blog and how to contact them. You can pay to use some of these sites and tools below, but let’s start with the most obvious and free source: search engines.
- Search Engines: Let’s say you have an online store that sells toy robots. Start your research by conducting niche-specific keyword searches in Google and Bing. Google in particular gives you the option to search only blog search results. Use a search query like “toy robot review” to see what blogs exist currently that have reviewed toy robots.
- Blog Directories: Many influential bloggers have listings in directories. Some of the top blog directories to mine for your target market include:
- Alltop.com: Browse the top blogs by topic. This is a good resource to find popular A-list bloggers.
- Delicious.com: People tend to only bookmark websites and blogs with worthy content. Use Delicious to mine tags and discover new blogs.
- Followerwonk.com: Find bloggers in your target market with lots of Twitter followers. This is often a great indication of influence.
- Findpeopleonplus.com: Similar to Followerwonk for Twitter,this site focuses on Google+.
- Use Blogger Outreach Resource Sites and SM Tools:There are some websites that facilitate the blogger/brand connection:
- myblogguest.com (for guest blogging only, but a great place to network too)
- www.guestblogit.com (similar to myblogguest.com)
- ecairn.com (help discover the long-tail list of bloggers)
- socialmedia.alterian.com (help discover the long-tail list of bloggers)
- Analyze Blogrolls and Comments: Once you have found some influential bloggers, analyze the sites they link to. Many blogs offer a “blogroll” of bloggers with similar interests. Also, pay attention to the people who comment on these blogs. Many of them are influential bloggers as well.
Step 2: Connecting and Engaging with Bloggers
Before connecting with potential bloggers, it’s important to establish criteria to gauge their authority and influence in your market. You don’t want to reach out to just anyone. The goal is to find bloggers who can help your business grow. NOTE: The criteria below is very subjective. As you interact more with bloggers in your target market, you’ll be able to create your own criteria for determining whether or not a blogger qualifies.
- The blog’s home page should have a toolbar PageRank of 2 or more. If there’s no PageRank, use a mozRank indicator of 3 or more. Visit www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/ to download the toolbar extension that shows both on-page metrics. Not having PageRank may be a sign of trouble – Google may have penalized the site recently and therefore you may want to avoid being associated with them. On the other hand, a blog’s home page may not have earned PageRank yet because it’s new.
- The blog should have either a Facebook or Twitter account associated with it, preferably both. At the very least, the blog owner should have personal accounts. Determine if they have a good following. You’ll want to make sure you can tap into their social networks.
- Check to see if blog posts are published regularly. Also see when the most recent post was published. This is a subjective call, but most authoritative blogs have regular postings.
- Use the “site:domain.com” search query in Google and Bing to see how many pages are indexed. This is another subjective call, but you want to make sure the search engines are properly crawling and indexing the blog. The more pages indexed, the better.
- Check the blog’s incoming link profile using something like www.opensiteexplorer.org. You want to see if the blog is earning links from other websites that are trustworthy. It would be a mistake to associate your online store with a blogger whose incoming link profile is suspicious.
- Use websites that will give loose measurements of traffic data and demographics such as www.alexa.com and www.compete.com. Use best judgment with regards to whether or not the blog qualifies.
Once you’ve compiled a list of blogs that qualify, spend some time on each blog learning more about the audience and the blogger. When it’s time to connect with the blogger, your email or phone call to him/her should be as personable as possible. Use the blogger’s real name and let them know up front whom you represent and what you’d like them to do. Show them that you’re interested in a symbiotic relationship. Perhaps comment on a recent blog post too if you find it interesting. Follow them on Twitter and friend them on Facebook. Let them know your brand supports them.
Next, decide what type of offer will be made.
- This usually means an offer to send a sample product to the blogger, free of charge in exchange for an honest blog review of your product. You’ll also want to negotiate your brand messaging in the blog post and get at least one link back to your site and/or product page.
- For the more influential bloggers, consider giving them an additional product sample to send to one of their readers as a giveaway. This is a great way to get the blogger’s audience engaged on a deeper level.
- If you don’t want to send them a product, another tactic is to offer an article for them to publish on their blog. Many bloggers accept blog guests, and this is one of the best ways to build brand authority and earn links back to your site. Check the website for “guest bloggers,” “guest authors,” etc. to see if they offer this type of opportunity.
Step 3: Using Social Media to Promote Both Parties
Once the blogger is interested in your offer, be specific about what your stipulations are. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, just make sure its within reason. It should be a mutually beneficial exchange. Also, let them know that you plan to share their blog post with your social networks. This is often a good note to include in the initial email or call, especially if you have a strong social presence and it’s clearly beneficial to the blogger. It’s likely that the blogger already plans to promote your post to their networks, as most bloggers tweet and FB their posts, so you definitely want to make sure this will benefit you.
Step 4: Keeping Track, Following-up and Growing your Blogger Outreach Strategy
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of blogger outreach is managing the process and scaling it. Initially, some people will prefer to keep a spreadsheet and develop their own system of keeping track of who they’ve talked to, when a product has been shipped, whether or not a blog post has been written, following-up after a certain amount of time, etc., while others will find it more beneficial to use something like raventools.com or www.buzzstream.com.
It’s a good idea to follow up with outstanding bloggers after three weeks or so. Send them a friendly email wishing them well with the product and let them know that they can contact you with any questions or issues. (Often if a blogger has not yet posted a review, this will inspire them.) Once you’ve exhausted your initial list, go back and do the research again.
If you feel like this is all too big a commitment, talk to a Volusion rep today to learn how our ecommerce SEO services can help you with your outreach.
Do you currently have a blogger outreach strategy? Please share your tips in the comments below.
-Nathan Joynt, SEO Manager, Volusion